This is a story from the earliest days of our Airstream Adventure. I’ve told it many times in person, and somehow never got it down for the blog. Well, friends, that’s going to get remedied right now.
It Was a Bright and Sunny Day
We’d just recently moved into our shiny new airstream and were parked at the lovely home of our good friends Jeff and Kate. Fall colors were beginning to show themselves and the heavily wooded driveway was such a picture perfect scene that it remains my favorite image of our rig. Kia, our ever watchful tabby cat had become intrigued by something on the floor. A closer inspection revealed it to be a dead yellow jacket. I swept it up and figured it must have come in when we’d had the door open.
We headed out for morning errands and returned to find additional dead yellowjackets. There were also a few that yet lived but were flopping about on the floor or seats, clearly on death’s door. The cats seemed to now be used to this state of affairs and paid the bugs no mind. So now we had two mysteries on our hands: where were they coming from, and why were they in such a sorry state? We cleaned up the dead and dying and set about looking for any holes where the bugs could get in. As we searched high and low, new yellow jackets would suddenly appear as if from nowhere. The rate at which they were getting in was very slow, and they were sort of dazed and confused, often dying not too long after making an appearance.
Looking for Answers
We called up our Airstream Dealer to see if they had any answers. They did not but would be happy to inspect it for us if we made an appointment. We did, but we’d have to wait a week before they had an opening. Until then, we were battling the bugs alone. We consulted the oracle of modern wisdom, aka we googled “how are yellowjackets getting into my airstream?” The most common answer was that they come in through the refrigeration vent at the top of the trailer. Apparently, the heat of the exhaust and the smell of the refrigerant attracts them and they crawl inside. This expanded our search from the more obvious points of entry. If they could get into the shell, they could conceivably come from anywhere.
The rate of their appearance began to escalate over the next couple of days. We’d armed ourselves with bug spray and fly swatters to battle the beasts, but we could never actually catch one emerging from wherever they emerged from. Despite whatever trauma they were suffering and our waging war on them, they never turned aggressive and attacked us so it remained more an annoyance than a hazard. The cats were more irritated at our swatting and spraying than the were put off by our new roommates. By the end of day two, they were accumulating pretty quickly.
One Mystery Solved
Around day 3 I came up with a theory. I found that the dead ones tended to be near the central skylight. It had no obvious place for them to come out of but on closer inspection the protective lip had a tiny crack running around up at the top. It was not visible standing beneath it, but you could sort of see it reflected in the plastic dome of the window. This also gave me a clue as to why they were so weak on emerging. Trying to wiggle through that gap left them injured and/or exhausted. I wadded up paper towels and stuffed them around the frame to see if that would stem the tide.
Sure enough, another day passed and the rate at which the invasion was progressing had slowed. A few were still appearing but it was entirely possible they also pushed through the paper towels. I removed them for a bit to see what would happen. It was then I saw in the reflection of the plastic that there were piles of dead wasps up there, a yellowjacket charnelhouse. I could see a few more twitching among the dead. I put the paper towels back up and used masking tape to ensure no more could breach the barrier.
And Then The Other
A little further research turned up that come fall, all but the queens are slated to die, and that they leave the nest to do so. They spend their last days looking for food to bring back to fatten up the queens. That explained why they were dying in such large numbers. Likely they only had a little life left in them and the ordeal of trying to find the source of the sweet smells emanating from our freezer was just too much for them. It also meant there was no real danger that they were setting up a nest inside the trailer.
When the day came for our dealer appointment the influx had abated. All that was left was to clear out the dead and figure out how they were getting in so that we could prevent further invasions. The service shop discovered that some of the interior seals had not ben properly installed at the factory. This allowed the wasps make their way from the fridge exhaust into the main cavity of the airstream and then through our skylight. They kindly fixed these problems with our warranty covering the repair costs.
Happily Ever After
Our foes vanquished, we rejoiced in our wasp free home. To help secure others against such a fate Trail wrote up a guide for keeping pests out of your Airstream.